Thirty-two members of the Green Bay-based 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion took a deep dive into Northeast Wisconsin’s agricultural industry in early September to better prepare themselves for future deployments.
Captain Jason Cox said his company broke into groups of four to visit different farms in the region over a four-day period.
“We’re focused on civil affairs and come into an area after a conflict or natural disaster and help get things back up and running,” Cox said. “We handle everything from municipal systems and making sure there’s enough water to agriculture and schools.”
When they arrive in an area, Cox said they search out local experts and learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.
“We then take what we learned back to the maneuvering commander to help him make decisions in a timely manner,” he said. “As a Civil Affairs Unit, our job is to work as a bridge between the military commander and the local community.”
“We didn’t just go on a tour, but we really sought an understanding of what the farm does and the role it plays in the local economy,” Cox said after touring Tidy View Dairy in Kaukauna. “This is all training to help us prepare for deployment, plus give us some additional background on agriculture.”
Tidy View spokesman Bill Harke was surprised when their four visitors arrived Thursday in military fatigues and driving a Humvee.
“It seemed like a typical tour call when it came in so we set it up as we normally would,” he said. “You might say we were a little bit caught off guard when a military Humvee pulled in our parking lot. When they said they were here for the tour, we all got a pretty good laugh out of it.”
Milk Source, which owns four dairies in Wisconsin including Tidy View and two dairies in Michigan, plays host to more than 700 tours groups annually, but “there were still a lot of curious looks as our tour guide in a pink safety vest lead a group of military personal in red vests around Tidy View,” Harke said.
Today, Cox’ group visited Pagel’s Ponderosa in Kewaunee County.
The 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion has previously been deployed to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Kosovo. Cox said they are planning for a possible deployment to Africa.
This is the second year in a row that Cox’ group has done a deep dive to learn more about an area they may need to work in while deployed. Last summer, they spent four days in Milwaukee learning about municipal government systems – everything from the fire department to the water department.
“This training helps us understand these areas before we’re deployed and get that experience of asking questions and connecting with local subject experts,” Cox said.